My top 5 Firefox/Thunderbird annoyances

Firefox is constantly gaining marked share (especially here in Europe) and it’s little not-yet-so-popular brother Thunderbird is evolving too. While I’m happy that they’re contributing their part to bring Free Software to the masses, I’m concerned that the quality of their software (especially Firefox under Linux) has decreased in the last months.

Here are my top 5 annoyances for Firefox and Thunderbird. Some of them only apply to Debian’s version others are more visible on my fairly old and “slow” (1.5GHz/512MiB) Laptop than on current and therefor faster machines:


  • Firefox seems to have a massive problem with font kerning. Sometimes text is hardly readable since several letters seem to share the same one-letter space. And marking messed up text like this gives funny results:
  • When visiting pages with a fixed background image like this, scrolling the page down causes massive CPU load and very slow scrolling even on fairly fast computers. Konqueror seems to handle pages like this much better.
  • When reloading all tabs at once in a session and you have many (read: more than say, 6) tabs open, Firefox takes all the available CPU resources and pretty much becomes unresponsive until all tabs are loaded.
  • Firefox literary freezes while loading very large pages (combine this with the previous annoyance for funny results)
  • I still haven’t figured out why Firefox on my laptop (correctly) wants to launch kpdf when I open a .pdf while Firefox on my desktop seems to prefer xpdf. I’ve checked all the available options on both systems and wasn’t able to find the difference in the configuration.


  • The most annoying bug in Thunderbird is Debian specific: it doesn’t open links in a browser anymore for months. Since you have to change some non-obvious configuration to fix this, I assume this is the default behavior for many users out there which are now forced to copy-paste links to their browser.
  • Like most other mail clients Thunderbird is also able to manage contacts. But it lacks two important features:
    1. No im/export of vcard: Hmm? Even outlook can do that and vcard is pretty much standard for storing contact information platform independent.
    2. No birthdays associated to contacts: Superb! When combining the Mozilla calendar application with Thunderbird you cannot just import all the birthdays from your contacts (which are stored as vcards of course), no you have to separately create those events which then of course are totally unrelated to the persons in your roster.
  • The “search entire message” feature in the search box does absolutely nothing when searching in newsgroups. Why is it enabled then? Or: why does it pretend to do something by hiding all threads when entering something, suggesting no match was found?
  • Wasn’t Thunderbird 1.x able to work with RSS feeds? What happened to this feature in Thunderbird 2.x?
  • What happened to Thunderbird’s icon?

While I’m still happy with Thunderbird (or Iceddove as we call it here) I’m really searching for an alternative to Firefox (Iceweasel). Unfortunately there is currently no alternative available which fits all my needs. Firefox has two extensions no other browser seems to provide and without which I wouldn’t want to work anymore (I wonder if that was a proper English sentence…):

  • Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer: which allows me to store my bookmarks on my (that’s right, not just foxmark’s) server to keep it in sync with all my Firefoxes on various places and machines.
  • Adblock + Filterset.G Updater: which keeps me mostly ad-free and automatically supplies me with the newest filter set rules.

While other browsers have some ad-blocking functionality too, they all seem to lack the filter set updater. The next best alternatives are Konqueror and Epiphany but besides the lack of the above features every one of them has it’s own little quirks which doesn’t really motivate me to make the switch yet. But Konqueror is making progress and I’m really looking forward to KDE4 which will hopefully bring a usable web browser so I can finally get rid of Firefox.

Update: Ooops, I nearly forgot my favorite pet annoyance of Firefox under Linux: Why does it have to insult the user’s eyes with this ugly toolkit when drawing check boxes, line edits, buttons etc? Firefox under Windows paints stuff like that according to Windows’ current theme, Konqueror under Linux as well, but what does Firefox for years?